World building in dystopian novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall

We, The Watched and Divided We Fall are set in an unnamed nation that is not unlike the US, UK, Australia or other “western” countries, but is much further along in its use of government surveillance.

While technically science fiction, I purposely avoided any out-there, overly futuristic elements in order to keep these books as grounded in reality as possible. The surveillance technologies discussed in the book mix what’s available today with what there is potential for in the future. I wanted to create a place that, while fictional, didn’t seem like much of a stretch given the current debate over government surveillance.

My novels have two interlinked, overarching conflicts, with three sides.

Within the country, you have the government and the Church together in a fight against revolutionaries who call themselves the Underground. Essentially, I took America’s First Amendment promise of separation of Church and State and turned it on its head. By uniting, they exercise totalitarian control over the people. The government provides physical enforcement while the Church spreads the psychological propaganda that keeps the people in line.

Illustrating the merger of Church and State is the motto of the Guard, the nation’s army:

PATRIOTS ARE THE TRUE. HERETICS ARE THE DAMNED.

Holding to that policy, the Guard keeps a Watched list of suspicious citizens. Those who are found out as Heretics face public execution.

Are you being watched? Take the quiz!

Naturally, not everyone’s going to agree with that, and the strongest opponents have formed a revolutionary group called the Underground. Funded by a mysterious benefactor, the Underground collects evidence of the government’s wrongdoing in an effort to gather followers and spur an uprising.

The symbol of the Underground.

The fire-eyed graffiti symbol of the Underground.

Meanwhile, there is a second conflict–an international war between the nation and an unnamed Enemy. The division between the government and the Underground makes the nation weak against the Enemy. The more internal division, the worse things seem to get in the war against the Enemy.

The hero of my novels, Seven, enters this nation without memory. Like the reader, Seven finds it all very strange and forms an opinion of who is in the right and who is in the wrong. But what can one man do, especially when the punishment for treason is execution?

Find out this answer and more in We, The Watched and the sequel, Divided We Fall, available now from Amazon and other major online booksellers!

You can also get the first book free by signing up for my newsletter via NoiseTrade below! If you sign up in the next month, I’ll throw in the sequel! (eBooks only)

file0001551850984

The Wanderer is coming …

I’m excited to say I’ve reached about the two-thirds mark of my next novel, The Wanderer and the New West.

It’s a mix of the western and dystopian genres with lots of action, and I can’t wait to share it with you all. Whereas my first two books focus on a nation where the government and church have united in a totalitarian force, my new novel imagines an America where things have swung entirely in the other direction. The government is weak and individuals use guns to make their own justice. It’s a real return the Wild West.

The Wanderer is a lone vigilante in this New West, travelling from town to town fighting for what he thinks is right.

Of course, there is much more to the story than that. But I hope this gives you a taste of the direction I’m heading. I believe there’s potential for a lot of interesting stories within this world, and I’m finding it absolutely addictive to write. I’ve always loved the Western genre but think it’s ready for an update to make it more relevant for modern times.

Hope to share more soon! Please feel free to email me your questions and I’ll try to answer them the best I can in my next newsletter. If you’re not already part of The Underground, click here to subscribe.

Film review: Citizenfour — Truth scarier than fiction

Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald make a plan. Credit: Madman

This week I had the pleasure of seeing an advance screening of Citizenfour in Sydney, hosted by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. The movie is coming out in Australia as the government here considers data retention legislation that would require telephone companies to store customer metadata for two years.

Citizenfour is a documentary that unfurls like a spy movie, focusing on filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s first meeting with Edward Snowden at a Hong Kong hotel in June 2013. During their visit, they would reveal details of the classified documents Snowden took from the US government about America’s secret surveillance programs. This is largely a cinematic version of the experience reported by Greenwald in the first part of his excellent book, No Place to Hide.

At one point in the film, Snowden says he wants the world to focus on the documents and not on his own personality. Ironically, Poitras focuses her lens squarely on Snowden and provides a sympathetic view of his emotions as he speaks to the journalists and his reactions as he watches the story appear on news channels around the world. Perhaps with it now two years since the great reveal, the players involved are okay with their story being told.

While the film gives an overview of some of the shattering revelations revealed by Snowden, watching Citizenfour acts as more of an introduction than an analysis. For more detail, the viewer will have to read Greenwald’s book or go back to the original news stories that broke at the time of the Snowden revelations. Even so, the film gives one the immediate sense that some pretty dystopian stuff has been going on behind the scenes. It is sure to spur discussion and debate, which is exactly what Snowden, Poitras and Greenwald want.

As a piece of history, it’s a pretty incredible film. Never before has a whistleblower leak been documented in real-time. Usually, you only get the aftermath, or at best a dramatization. Rarely do you get to see the whistleblower himself and experience the sacrifice he has made to do what he believes is right.

As you may know, I’ve written a couple of dystopian novels. I thought I’d imagined some pretty crazy stuff for those books, but at a few points in Citizenfour I found myself thinking, “Damn, I should have included something on that!” It’s pretty incredible to think that the reality of government surveillance might be more frightening than fiction.

Suicide comedy, zombie Jughead & epic gamers: What I’m reading

Authors are always reading. I mean… when they’re not writing, of course. Authors gotta write.

Personally, I like to write short book reviews on Goodreads (follow me!). Here’s a selection of some of my favorite recent books.

A Long Way DownA Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nick Hornby writes like people talk and his books are about ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives. A Long Way Down presents one his most dramatic premises — four people intending to commit suicide run into each other on the top of the same building.

Hornby takes a unique approach of alternating perspectives every chapter. The effect is not unlike a documentary, in which interviews with several people are woven together to create a single forward narrative.

Because of the three act structure, large amounts of dialogue and relatively static set pieces, I could really imagine this acted out on the stage. In that way, it felt a little less “novel-y” than other novels, but if that kind of thing doesn’t bug you, then full speed ahead.

I should add that this is a funny book. Yeah, okay, it’s about suicide. But it’s great fun watching the characters’ personalities clash. In many ways they don’t like each other, but at the same time they realize they need each others’ help to keep going.

I really got to liking each of the characters, too, even though they’d done things (and continue to do things) that are not completely likable. And really, it’s a testament to Hornby’s talent that he can pull off a comedy about wanting to kill yourself so effortlessly.

 

Afterlife with Archie Book 1: Escape from RiverdaleAfterlife with Archie Book 1: Escape from Riverdale by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Who knew adding zombies to Archie would make it so good?!

I never really got into Archie Comics, but this fresh spin goes all in on the horror while preserving the characters everyone knows (yes, Archie is still waffling between Betty and Veronica).

I can’t say enough about the artwork by Francesco Francavilla — who is known for his horror stuff and not your typical Archie artist — so I won’t try.

So yeah, Afterlife with Archie is a total blast. Read it now!

 

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ready Player One is the geekiest book I have ever read. That’s a compliment. Gamers, sci-fi and fantasy lovers — this is your book.

Even if you don’t understand all the references, you’ll understand some of them and get a big grin on your face. Meanwhile, the fun narrative — mixing action, comedy and romance — will keep you reading every day until Game Over.

If I have to nitpick, I’d say there’s sometimes a bit too much explanation about how the world functions, both in the virtual OASIS and the dystopian near-future real world. The hero Parzival often pauses to explain the rules when probably the reader could figure these things out along the way.

In the end though, I think your enjoyment of this book ultimately comes down to whether you like fun. Do you like fun? Yes? Well, then…

Ready Player One!

Check out all my book reviews!

Free eBook: Get dystopian novel We, The Watched on NoiseTrade

Propaganda from the author!

Propaganda from the author!

Exciting news! My first novel We, The Watched is now available to download for free on NoiseTrade! All you have to do is provide an email address and you can instantly download the eBook (MOBI and EPUB versions available).

If you like what you read, NoiseTrade provides the ability to donate. However, as a self-published author, I’d be even happier if you left an honest review of the book on Amazon, Goodreads or another bookstore website.

So what’s it about?

An amnesiac struggles to conform in a surveillance society he doesn’t remember. Resistance is heresy and punishable by death. But some seek to ignite a revolution. Will the fresh perspective from Seven’s rebirth be a blessing or a curse?

For readers who prefer print, you can still buy the paperback edition of We, The Watched on Amazon for just $8.99.

What are you waiting for? Download it for free right now! Thanks and happy reading!

–Adam Bender